In the current issue of PR Influences, Editor Grant Common writes on the uneasy alliance among media, PR and companies in Australia.
Common referred to an article by Neil Shoebridge in the Australian Financial Review in early November, calling it “a vitriolic attack on PR.” He said Shoebridge accused PR people of sending too many media releases, not responding to phone calls, not being honest and responsive enough, and overselling to clients what they could achieve in media. He also said Shoebridge suggested that clients do media work themselves.
Although Common agrees that Shoebridge’s accusations are right, he counters that media has a lot of failings and inconsistencies of its own including misrepresenting people in stories, quoting people wrongly, running material without checking facts and blatantly promoting information about themselves as news. His point is that the problem is contributed to by all three parties: companies, their PR people and media.
1. Australian media’s inconsistency in what it runs as news puts pressure on PR. When media accommodates “non-news,” companies and PR people are given the signal that it’s okay to release that kind of material.
2. Companies push their PR people to inundate media with releases, thinking that the numbers will bring in more results in publicity. The media releases that media complains about have actually already been filtered and cut down by PR.
3. Media wants to have a relationship directly with the company, bypassing PR. Companies, on the other hand, often do not want to deal with media directly. That is precisely why they hire PR agencies to build and manage a relationship with media.
4. PR people in recent years have been educating client companies on the role of PR and the importance of building a relationship with media.
Common said that Shoebridge conceded that some PR people and agencies have done a good job.
Common further points out that a certain specialist company in IT media, founded and run by former journalists, has helped solve this three-way problem by gathering more than a hundred representatives of client companies, PR agencies and media twice a year to talk, build relationships and “develop protocols that will satisfy the needs of all three parties.”
If it works, perhaps others could follow suit.